Héctor Scarone, José Nasazzi, Obdulio Varela. Such names are synonymous with Uruguay’s achievements from another time. Whether it were the skill and opportunism of Scarone, the brute force of Nasazzi, or the pure inspiration of Varela, each left an imprint in the collective memory of Uruguayan football lovers.

Joining them is Diego Forlán.

He carried Uruguay to fourth spot in South Africa, their best result in 40 years. He won player of the tournament. The following year he backed it up by scoring twice in the final of the Copa America, which Uruguay won for a record fifteenth time.

Like many Uruguayans, Forlán came from a footballing family. His father and grandfather participated in World Cups and won Copa Americas. Such lineage inevitably carried expectations.

The pressure felt by Forlán is an ongoing theme in Uruguayan football, the desire to return to the heroic old days consuming the national psyche. This pressure has condemned many Uruguayan players to failure. Yearning for past glories, Uruguay became desperate and ugly.

Forlán exceeded expectations. He did so by being different.

Diego wasn’t a magician, a trickster, or a fighter. He was calm and dedicated. He didn’t make noise, he made goals. He was an example to his teammates.

Forlán’s international career is a lesson on how to cope with pressure.  He was able to take the weight of his family name and make it his own. His dedication provides an example, and in it hope, to a national team so desperate to return to the top of the world.

Is Uruguay in good hands? I’m not sure. Suárez is a superstar, one of the world’s best. He is also unstable. Cavani is immense, but sometimes falls short for the national team.

Uruguay will find a way. I just wish there was another Forlán to help out…

Diego Forlán


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